Able2Do Anything: Sports

Paraclimbing is making disabled people feel more accepted

An amputee climbing a wall

Whether you have a physical, learning or hidden disability Paraclimbing is a sport which can accommodate most people’s needs.

The activity is suitable for individuals living with conditions such as hearing loss, vision loss, autism and ADHD as well as those with limited mobility or wheelchair users.

But over the past few years alterations to the classification criteria has seen a number of competitors turned away from formal national and international paraclimbing competitions across the country.

Noticing disabled people are being left out from a sport specifically designed for them, a group of disabled climbers stepped up to the challenge to form a community outside the competitive scene.

Over the past few years paraclimbing clubs have been launched around the UK which welcomes any budding climber living with a disability.

Organisations including Leeds Paraclimbing Club, Milton Keynes Deaf Climbers, BITS [Bristol Inclusive Thrill Seekers] and Adventure Awaits run paraclimbing events for people of all ages offering introductory climbing sessions, regular paraclimbing socials and adaptive coaching classes taught by disabled instructors.   

As well as providing spaces for people with disabilities to learn and progress their Paraclimbing skills the clubs are also the ideal place to socialise and meet others with similar interests as themselves.

Kamran Ullah knows this only too well. "Climbing has literally got me out of the house, where I spent most of my 20's," he told UK Climbing. "The friendly and accepting nature of the paraclimbing community in particular has supported me when I felt like I couldn't climb by myself."

Marie Uri is a paraclimber and co-director of United We Climb. It is really important to provide a safe space but also have a clear understanding of the paraclimbing community as a whole," she said. "It is amazing to have the opportunity to visit walls that accommodate disabilities, people with mental health problems and neurodiverse people. It makes such a difference when a climbing wall understands why the music needs to be lower, or when staff understand the need to be a bit more flexible with people with different needs."

"I realise I have been more outspoken on social media about having dyspraxia and talking about how my chronic illness can affect me since I have met other paraclimbers," she added.

Uri mentions social media which has had its part to play making more climbing walls accessible to paraclimbers. 

By sharing and starting conversations on platforms such as Instagram and Twitter climbing organisations are starting to make adjustments to their facilities so more people can use them from the disabled community.

Siddrah Aslam, founder of ClimbMuz told UK Climbing:  "Since meeting people through [paraclimbing] socials I've felt a lot more accepted as a climber," she said. "My fear had been crippling me since I started climbing in my 20's. Although I kept pushing through with small achievements, I never felt accepted - or maybe I just didn't accept myself as I was around people who were grade-focused climbers. It's nice to meet a mixture of climbers, with a whole different mentality."

Paraclimber Yasmin Kenny is also a co-director of United We Climb, shares Aslam’s perspective on the sport.

"It has definitely helped me to feel more accepted, comfortable and find my little niche within the ever-growing climbing community!” she said.

“And it is a place where I feel I can also have an impact too."

Anna Foo is a member of the GB paraclimbing team. "For me the community within paraclimbing has been the most supportive and inclusive space I have ever been in," she said. "It's the main thing that has had the most positive impact on how I see myself as a blind person. We genuinely embody true inclusion and it's a really special thing to be a part of. It shouldn't feel this unique, but it does."

[ For more information on Paraclimbing follow @uk.paraclimbling.collective on Instagram. ]

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